US Industrial Production Drops 0.4 Percent
WASHINGTON - Superstorm Sandy depressed U.S. industrial output in October, the latest indication that the storm could temporarily slow the economy. Still, production of machinery and equipment declined sharply, reflecting a more cautious outlook among businesses.
The Federal Reserve said Friday that industrial production fell 0.4 percent last month, after a 0.2 percent gain in September. Excluding the storm’s impact, output at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities would have risen about 0.6 percent.
Factory output, the most important component, fell 0.9 percent. It would have been unchanged without the storm, the Fed said. Utility output dipped 0.1 percent, while mining, which includes oil and gas production, rose 1.5 percent.
Manufacturing has weakened since spring, in part because companies have scaled back purchases of long-lasting goods that signal investment plans. That trend appeared to continue in October: Machinery production fell 1.9 percent, while production of electrical equipment, appliances and components declined 1.4 percent.
Many businesses are worried about tax increases and federal spending cuts - known as the "fiscal cliff" - that will take effect in January unless Congress reaches a budget deal before then. Most economists predict the economy will suffer a recession in the first half of 2013 if lawmakers and President Barack Obama can’t avoid the fiscal cliff.
Superstorm Sandy has also hurt the economy, although most economists expect the storm’s impact to fade in the coming weeks.